Evening everyone. It's fair to say this series hasn't been as easy as we all hoped, but here the Pens are with a chance to move on. There are many sayings about how anything worth having is not easy, so I suppose one of them applies here. Like most great military campaigns, the Pens have had to deal with the fog of war. In this case, the uncertainty was in goal, with questions about how MAF would respond after last year's struggles. Ultimately, you're only as good as your last envelope, or in this case playoff performance. The worst part about Fleury's struggles was it kept people from pointing out that Nabokov has been atrocious in net. Somehow the eagle-eyed hockey media missed that.
On Thursday, the Pens needed to do more than win- they needed to make a statement. After a shaky first period that saw them give up 14 shots (though not of great quality) they made a statement of intent by putting their foot down over the next 40 minutes. Tyler Kennedy responded to his insertion in the lineup by burying a breakaway goal. And that Crosby fellow turned in a Mario-esque goal for the ages. (Being good Pens fans, we measure all hockey achievements against 66. That goal was approximately .82 Marios.) Now the Pens need one more win to set up a series with our friends in Ottawa. The Pens also played defense for the first time since Game 1, which was a welcome sight. When the Pens are being responsible in their own end and getting solid goaltending and not taking dumb penalties, they're hard to stop. At times you do get the feeling that the toughest opponent the Pens will face is themselves. The Isles are banged-up and desperate tonight. The Pens will need to match their early intensity and quiet the fans. They also need to continue to work over the Isles defense, which is just not that good.
This is the only game on the hockey calendar tonight, so the Pens have the attention of the hockey-watching planet. I don't know about you guys, but I have plans with my family tomorrow and I'd prefer not to have them ruined by having to scream at the Pens in a Game 7 scenario, especially when it means we'll be subjected to clips from 1993 that make me angry and violent. I say we end this tonight. Who's with me?